Oil Futures Snap Losing Streak on Libya Uncertainty

By Nicole FriedmanDow Jones Newswires

NEW YORK--U.S. oil futures snapped a three-day losing streak Thursday as traders looked skeptically at reports that a deal could be struck in eastern Libya to resume crude-oil exports.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled up 67 cents, or 0.7%, at $100.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange rose $1.36, or 1.3%, at $106.15 a barrel.

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Brent prices fell to a near-five-month low Wednesday on reports that Libyan rebels could reach an agreement to reopen export terminals in eastern Libya that have been blockaded.

However, market watchers are uncertain that exports will resume. Some Libyan oil production has restarted in recent months only to be halted again amid renewed unrest.

"I think it's a toss-up," said Dominick Chirichella, analyst at the Energy Management Institute. "Until I see it, I just don't believe it. We've seen so many of these instances in Libya."

Unrest in Libya has kept the country's oil production well below capacity this year, boosting global prices. Libyan output averaged 370,000 barrels a day in the first quarter of the year, compared to a capacity of about 1.4 million barrels a day, according to UBS.

The world is already amply supplied with crude oil, said Julius Walker, a UBS strategist, in a note. "The global market is not dependent on Libyan barrels returning in order to be more comfortable," he said.

Front-month May reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled up 4.5 cents, or 1.6%, to $2.9118 a gallon. May diesel settled up 3.96 cents, or 1.4%, to $2.9062 a gallon.